In an era where artists struggle to standout in the uniformed tide of auto-tuned Pop music and depthless R&B, Kelly Rowland has announced her return with her new album, ‘Here I Am’. However, instead of creating refreshing material that reflects her status as a veteran in the game, she has done nothing more than cement her position as another faceless name in the crowd.
Simply a collection of radio-friendly singles framed by catchy melodies and finger-snapping beats, ‘Here I Am’ is mostly forgettable. Still, regardless all of its shortcomings, the LP is probably Rowland’s best work to date.
Timidly hiding behind thick production, Rowland’s voice is rarely given the opportunity to shine. In fact, songs such as ‘All of the Night (Ft. Rico Love)’ and ‘Turn It Up’ make it easy to believe that she rather enjoyed her place behind the far more impressive Beyonce in Destiny’s Child.
On almost every track, Rowland completely replaces background singers with her own layered vocals, proving her blatant unwillingness to push her limits and experiment with more complex arrangements. Clearly, it is no mystery why she is rarely able to sing her songs live when she is almost completely reliant on studio technology.
In fact, the only songs that feature Rowland’s voice as the main focus are the sensual lead single, ‘Motivation (Ft. Lil Wayne)’, and ‘Keep It Between Us’ where she glides through her range with surprising control. Certainly, while her voice lacks the grit and power of many of her R&B peers, she has the ability to produce an enjoyable vocal performance when she tries.
Ironically, despite obvious attempts to create an album geared toward capturing the Urban market that has eluded Rowland for most of the last decade, the standout tracks on ‘Here I Am’ are actually the Pop songs. The infectious ‘Down for Whatever’ and terribly underrated ‘Commander’ demonstrate her ability to become this generation’s Donna Summer; the reigning Queen of Dance music.
Still, as many have learned to expect from Rowland, these shining moments are a rarity. With the exception of the possible summer anthem ‘Lay It On Me (Ft. Big Sean)’, the rest of the LP is awkward and uninspired.
The Tricky Stewart-produced ‘I’m Dat Chick’ sounds like a leftover track from Rihanna’s ‘Loud’, undoubtedly a ramification of the fact that it was co-written by Ester Dean (‘S&M’, ‘Rude Boy’). Moreover, ‘Work It Man (Ft. Lil Playy)’ does not encourage any reaction except the urge to click ‘delete’ when it is discovered that the featured act is not T.I.
In the end, ‘Here I Am’ is just generally anticlimactic and far from life changing. Similar to most of Rowland’s previous efforts, it circles the bull’s-eye without ever hitting the mark, proving that she isn’t the little engine that could. Rather, she is the little engine that almost did.
Standout tracks: ‘Down For Whatever’, ‘Lay It One Me (Ft. Big Sean)’ and ‘Motivation (Ft Lil Wayne)’
Weakest track: ‘Work It Man (Ft. Lil Playy)’
Possible singles: ‘Turn It Up’, ‘Down For Whatever’ and ‘All of the Night (Ft. Rico Love)’